1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
Last Sunday we tried to understand just something of the immeasurable, undeserved love of God. It’s a subject we can never really do justice to, and yet, incredibly, as we spend more time in the Bible we soon learn that God’s love for us is just the beginning of the story of how much we mean to Him. He loves all people, regardless of whether we choose to love or hate Him in return, but for those who do turn to Him in repentance, for those who do accept salvation in Jesus Christ, He does so much more.
Isaiah served as a prophet to the nation of Israel. He dealt with the coming judgment of God, but he also revealed much about the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah. Isaiah lived some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, yet he provided exact details of His birth, life, and death on the cross.
One of the highlights of the prophecies of Isaiah is the hope of salvation that the Messiah will bring. He uses a wonderful analogy when he speaks about salvation – the promise that we will be clothed in righteousness. As we saw last week, the love of God is beyond human understanding. And still, He goes infinitely further in His gifts of grace to us. He not only loves us and offers us forgiveness, but He clothes us with righteousness. The theological term for this is justification by grace. By His grace we are now justified, and we’re able to stand in a right relationship with Him once more. When you are justified by grace, God now looks upon you just as if you’d never sinned. And justification is necessary. Without it, we would remain beyond the reach of God. He is holy, and the minimum requirement to come into His presence is perfect holiness.
This presents us with an insurmountable problem, because sin has tainted us. We dare not approach God because of the way sin has destroyed us. There is nothing we can do to repair the damage done by our sin. Had Jesus not come and paid the price of our sin, we would be doomed forever. But because Jesus did come, the penalty of our sin has been dealt with. But that’s only the start, because when God sees us now, in our forgiven, redeemed, justified state, He sees us as He sees Jesus. He has transferred the righteousness of His Son to us. Something incredible happened on the Cross while Jesus hung there. Not only did He take our sin upon Himself, but at the same time, He placed His righteousness upon us. We are now clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.
Isaiah talks about this wonderful promise in verse 10: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah spoke of the believer’s rejoicing regarding our relationship with God, and there is an abundance of joy. “I delight greatly in the Lord.” The joy we have in Christ rises above the trials and tribulations of this life.
1 Peter 1:6-9 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Isaiah spoke of greatly rejoicing in the Lord. He spoke of a joyful soul in the God he served. This kind of rejoicing was not temporal or influenced by outside circumstances. His rejoicing was in God.
And just like Isaiah, we have much to rejoice in through Jesus. He has offered grace where judgment was deserved. We have been saved by His grace and placed within the family of God. We’re not merely forgiven, but we have the righteousness of Jesus given to us as well. We are promised eternal life and a glorious inheritance in heaven. Why would we not rejoice in those things?
Christians are now clothed in the garments of salvation. It’s the ultimate rags to riches story. We all were born in sin and separated from God. It’s been said that even as we drew our first breath, there were three strikes against us. We stood condemned, and in desperate need of salvation.
It’s interesting that the vast majority of people are aware of this need. There is actually a very small percentage of the world’s population who believe that once you draw your last breath, that’s it. You live, you die, game over.
An overwhelming majority of people believe that there is something or someone beyond this life. There is an awareness of the spiritual part of our nature which most people are trying to find answers to. Of course, many are looking in the wrong places and are confused by all the mixed messages out there, but they are seeking.
As Christians, we know that in His mercy and grace, God has provided the means of our salvation through the sacrifice of His Son for our sin. Where we once stood clothed in the rags of sin and condemnation, we now stand clothed in the garments
of salvation. Christ bore my sin, enduring the judgment I deserved, so that I might be pardoned from sin and reconciled to God.
As you come to Jesus in salvation, you traded the old garments, stained by sin, and He clothed you instead in a clean garment of salvation.
And one of the great benefits of salvation, is the righteousness of Jesus which is also given, or imputed to you. The word ‘impute’ means quite literally, to transfer something from one person to another.
You see, being saved is one thing, but once saved, we need a new righteousness in order to begin this new relationship with God. Before salvation, we stood condemned in sin, having no way of living in a relationship with God. And as we all know, being saved does not remove the propensity to sin. We’re forgiven, but our sinful nature remains, and this creates a problem for us.
In eternity we will be perfect. There will be no trace or stain of sin and our relationship with God will be just as perfect. But for now we need some help.
Even though we’re forgiven and the promise of Heaven is ours, we still fall short of God’s glory, which means we’re still cut off from Him. And so, until such time as we reach perfection in eternity, we have the righteousness of Jesus here and now. Jesus has clothed us with His robes of righteousness. And what exactly does that mean for us? Simply, we are now acceptable to God. We are viewed as righteous because of Jesus. So now, when God looks at those who are saved by grace, He no longer sees the garments stained by sin, but a robe of righteousness obtained through Christ. His righteousness has been imputed to our accounts. We are accepted by the Father because of the Son.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This reinforces the message of Ephesians 2:8-9. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is only by grace and through the sacrifice of Jesus that we are saved.
In the monthly newsletter today, I’ve touched on the age-old debate of the different religions, and how Christianity stands quite alone. This whole concept of Jesus offering His life for us and clothing us in robes of righteousness is the answer. God has done all of this for us. All the other religions are about trying to do the right thing in order to please or appease God. Other religions are about our search for God. Christianity is about God’s search for us. When Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Do you want God to be well pleased with you too? Then you need to wear the robes of righteousness of Jesus. There is no other way of salvation, and there is no other way that your sinful nature can be dealt with.
We are not saved by our works or merit. We are saved by the good grace of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God has made the way for our salvation. You don’t have to keep looking for alternative means, because there aren’t any! It’s all about Jesus.
Isaiah goes on in chapter 61 to use the analogy of a bride and groom at a wedding to reveal how we now appear to God. Weddings are beautiful ceremonies. The man and woman are in love with each other and are making a commitment together as husband and wife.
Isaiah spoke of how the bride and groom dress for the occasion. “The bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and the bride adorns herself with her jewels.” They have prepared themselves to look beautiful for each other. As the Church, we are the bride of Christ. Have you ever considered that you are viewed as a thing of beauty by God? Jesus loved us enough to give His life in our place. He purchased our redemption, and we are His. A life once marred and wrecked by sin is now cleansed and made new in Him.
The modern world has unfortunately hijacked the Biblical gift of Christian marriage, but in Isaiah’s time, just as today, God regards marriage as a solemn and a holy thing. The couple was expected to be physically pure on their wedding day. They had each saved themselves for the other, coming together in purity as they pledged their vows one to the other.
And this is a picture following salvation. Those who are saved by grace are viewed as the bride of Christ. He has purchased His bride (that’s you and I), free of blemish and sin, through His redeeming work on the cross. We are no longer dirty and condemned, but clean and pure through the cleansing blood He shed for us. We will be welcomed in to the Marriage Feast, not based on our merit, but through faith in the saving grace of Jesus.
We are complete in Him, because of what He has done for us.
The very first sacrifice made by God for us takes us all the way back to Genesis 3. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Don’t miss this point – God clothed them. The very first act of grace shown by God to sinners was clothing and protecting. This just shows us again that we’re not capable of saving ourselves.
A simple illustration is helping a toddler to get dressed. They can’t do it themselves. Try waking a two-year-old and telling him to get dressed, and be quick because breakfast is nearly ready, and see how far you get.
The same principle applies to garments of salvation and robes of righteousness. This is something we absolutely cannot provide for ourselves. God provides the salvation and He clothes us with righteousness. Providing righteousness is something which God does to us and for us. There is nothing we can do. Like a two-year-old trying to work out which arm goes where and which shoe goes on which foot, we simply cannot get ourselves dressed in righteousness.
Those who have tried it have come to the same conclusion that Isaiah did in Isaiah 64:6 – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
In order to make myself presentable before God, I have to come to an understanding of the fact that I cannot dress myself. My “righteous” acts do not help. My good works and all my sincerity and all my best intentions are doomed to fail, because until such time as I turn to Jesus, I am dressed in nothing more than filthy rags.
I cannot dress myself in robes of righteousness, but Jesus can, and He has. Isaiah understood this truth, and that is why he could say with joy and certainty, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Jesus is your garment of praise, and when you put on Him, you put on His righteousness.
Only Jesus can clothe you with righteousness. Self-righteousness is a delusion. We cannot make ourselves righteous, nor can any law put us right with God. Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-22, “Now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
The Christian author and teacher Max Lucado has such a gift with words, and this is what he wrote in one of his books:
“We eat our share of forbidden fruit. We say what we shouldn’t say. Go where we shouldn’t go. Pluck fruit from trees we shouldn’t touch. And when we do, the door opens, and the shame tumbles in. And we hide. We sew fig leaves. We cover ourselves in good works and good deeds, but one gust of the wind of truth, and we are naked again - stark naked in our own failure. So what does God do? Exactly what He did for our parents in the garden. He sheds innocent blood. He offers the life of His Son. And from the scene of the sacrifice the Father takes a robe - the robe of righteousness. And does He throw it in our direction and tell us to shape up? No, He dresses us Himself. He dresses us with Himself.
We hide. He seeks.
We bring sin. He brings a sacrifice.
We try fig leaves. He gives the robe of righteousness.”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Genesis 6:5-6, Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:23
Many people say that human beings are inherently good (although we’re all capable of evil), but these words challenge that view.
The Bible teaches that we are incapable of righteousness. Discuss this in your group. Do you agree with these (and other) verses? Why?
Read Isaiah 61:10
Isaiah rejoiced in the truth that both salvation and righteousness are gifts of God.
What is the difference between salvation and righteousness?
Why is righteousness necessary in order for us to live as Christian disciples?
Read Ephesians 2:8-10
As Christians we agree that salvation comes from God, and that it is He who clothes us with robes of righteousness.
Bearing this in mind, how are we to understand the purpose of Christian service and “good works?” (see verse 10)
Close by thanking Jesus that He not only paid the price of your sin, but that He has clothed you with the righteousness you need to live in a relationship with the Father.